How long does asbestos stay in the air after it’s been disturbed?

How long does asbestos stay in the air after it’s been disturbed?

If you’re wondering how long asbestos stays in the air after being disturbed, there are several factors to consider which we will outline in this article.

Asbestos poses the greatest threat to human health once its fibres have been disturbed since this releases dangerous particles into the air, which can remain airborne for some time. These particles are invisible to the naked eye but linger in the atmosphere. You can easily breathe them in, potentially causing irreparable damage to the body.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), more than 5,000 people die annually from asbestos-related illnesses including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. More people die from this than on the roads, and asbestos remains the biggest cause of death from occupational cancer in the UK. Figures are set to remain high as the full extent of past exposure before the substance was banned makes itself felt – symptoms frequently crop up years or decades after the initial inhalation.

Once a commonly used building material, asbestos was banned by the UK government back in 1999. It is still present in many properties, so it’s important to appreciate the risks and how long asbestos stays in the air, while also understanding how to prevent exposure.

Wondering How Long Asbestos Stays Airborne?

If you’re wondering how long asbestos stays in the air after being disturbed, ultimately there’s no definitive answer. That’s because it depends on a number of factors including:

  • The type of asbestos that’s been disturbed, and where it was found; whether that’s insulation boarding, roofing, floor tiles or anything else.
  • How well ventilated the room in which it was disturbed was.
  • The size of the room in which it was disturbed – the smaller the room, the longer it’s likely to linger in the air.
  • Whether it was disturbed inside or outside; asbestos is better dispersed outside and hence will typically stay airborne for a shorter time.

Once asbestos has been disturbed, it typically settles within between 48 and 72 hours, so the answer to how long asbestos stays airborne is that it can remain airborne for up to three full days.

Bear in mind that you won’t be able to see any asbestos fibres which have been released as they are microscopic, and neither will you able to smell or taste them. Therefore, the safest approach if asbestos has been disturbed is to assume that fibres are likely to be in the air.

How To Detect Asbestos In The Air

If you suspect that asbestos has been significantly disturbed, i.e. not just a small scratch on an Artex ceiling, either in your home or place of work, specialist asbestos air monitoring and testing services can evaluate the potential for release and monitor the breathable fibres within the air.

During asbestos air testing, a pre-determined volume of air is drawn through a filter during a measured time period. The airborne particles gathered on the filter are then prepared for microscopic examination. This can calculate the overall concentration of breathable fibres in the air.

In summary, asbestos air monitoring is the best way to detect if there is asbestos present in the air.

You’re invariably better off avoiding home asbestos air-testing kits and instead opting for a UKAS-accredited asbestos air testing company, to guarantee the most accurate and reliable results. At the same time, a professional asbestos company can advise you on how to deal with your asbestos issues and conduct any necessary asbestos surveys.

What To Do If Asbestos Is Disturbed

There are certain steps you’ll need to follow if you have either disturbed asbestos or potentially been exposed to it. These include:

  • Stopping work immediately and telling the person responsible for managing the building
  • Informing anyone currently on-site or planning on working there in the future
  • Contacting a specialist asbestos company for advice on monitoring the air for asbestos or to come and collect samples for asbestos testing if the presence of the substance is suspected but not yet confirmed
  • Erecting a warning sign at the entrance to the area where asbestos has been disturbed to warn others who are unaware or who have not been told about the issue

Finally, it’s important that you don’t try to undertake cleaning yourselves unless you have the correct equipment, training and PPE.

How Does Asbestos Become Disturbed?

The most common way that asbestos gets disturbed is during renovation work by tradesmen who have not had proper asbestos awareness training, as well as during demolition projects. Soil contaminated with asbestos (often from previous demolition work) can also cause asbestos fibres to be released into the air outside.

Bad weather, fire or other damage can also disturb asbestos if it has lain in a commercial or residential property (potentially undetected) for some time. For example, if it is part of an asbestos garage roof and the weather has damaged it, this can release deadly asbestos fibres.

Can Asbestos Also Linger In The Outside Atmosphere?

Asbestos can indeed also linger in the air outside, as well as inside. It can get there after a demolition or renovation work has taken place, or if the soil has become contaminated with the substance, as described above.

It’s true that, outdoors, concentrations in the atmosphere are typically much lower compared with indoor levels. Nonetheless, it’s still a good idea to have asbestos air monitoring carried out in the situations outlined above if a demolished or refurbished building had asbestos present or where soil may be contaminated, alongside site remediation.

Outdoors, asbestos air testing should take wind direction into account. The test pumps are strategically placed in areas where the fibres can be tracked to ensure the safety of workers, residents and the general public are monitored. The pumps are placed near these areas downwind of the potential fibre release to give a better and more accurate reading.

Looking For a Professional Asbestos Air Testing Company?

Core Surveys works across both the commercial and residential sectors providing professional asbestos air testing services. We have offices based in South Wales and Sussex, so we’re perfectly placed to cover the whole of the south-east, South Wales and the south-west. Our coverage areas includes Kent and Surrey as well as Bristol, London, Hereford, Gloucester, Swansea, Newport and Cardiff. At the same time, we’re able to offer our services across Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham and North Wales.

Additionally, we’re UKAS-accredited to carry out asbestos demolition or refurbishment surveys and asbestos management surveys plus asbestos air monitoring. We also conduct asbestos sampling and analysis at our in-house laboratory. Another service we offer is asbestos re-inspection surveys, which monitor the condition of asbestos you already know is present. This is a legal requirement for commercial properties to ensure management is being undertaken and the asbestos hasn’t been further disturbed, damaged or removed unknowingly and so isn’t releasing lethal fibres into the air. Talk to us about asbestos air testing and site remediation today.